Screen time is a big part of life in the West in 2021, especially due to digital globalization and post-pandemic measures. While looking at content on a screen can be more engaging for children, as mums we often know there’s a fine line between balanced amounts of screen time and too much screen time. So how to decrease screen time?
Research backs up our concerns about disproportionate screen time.
Screen time can cause:
📱 Emotional and social issues
When screen time gets out of hand, our relationships suffer as we lose the ability to engage face-to-face with people.
There’s a reason certain apps are so popular. They’ve been designed to hook people!
At the end of the day, any app that is free gets money from advertising. And that advertising is only worth it when there are a lot of people using the app.
They use our dopamine reward system to hook us in. According to Pediatrician Michael Rich:
“Virtually all games and social media work on what’s called a variable reward system, which is exactly what you get when you go to Mohegan Sun and pull a lever on a slot machine.
It balances the hope that you’re going to make it big with a little bit of frustration, and unlike the slot machine, a sense of skill needed to improve.”
📱 Attention deficit
Have you ever tried to talk to someone engrossed in their phone only to get grunts and not a real answer?
The reason smartphones engross us is due to the addictive quality of the apps and websites, the information hook points, and the bright visual display and fast-moving graphics.
📱 Inability to create
Much of what happens on screen provides “impoverished” stimulation of the developing brain compared to reality” says Rich “Children need a diverse menu of online and offline experiences, including the chance to let their minds wander.
“Boredom is the space in which creativity and imagination happen.”
📱 Sleep problems
Exposure to all colors of light helps control your natural sleep-and-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
Blue light though messes with your body’s ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks a sleep hormone called melatonin.
📱 Higher risk of obesity
The website Children and Screens states the following “The evidence to date suggests that screen media exposure leads to obesity in children and adolescents via three main mechanisms:
(1) increased eating while using screens, leading to greater calorie intake (2) seeing advertising for high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and beverages that alters children’s preferences, purchase requests and eating habits, and (3) disrupting sleep.”
So, what can we do as parents to set a good example to the children God has given us to steward? How can we decrease screen time?
What can we implement at home that will help our children thrive in an age of social anxiety, childhood obesity, addiction to devices, bad sleep, and FOMO (fear of missing out)?
How to reduce screen time
1.The substitution method
When reducing something that can be harmful in high doses (usually something addictive – in this case, digital devices) it’s not enough to simply try and hope for the best.
We need to find something that will replace the addictive habit.
So if you want to decrease screen time at home you’ll need to find something new to think about and do:
☀️ a family hobby
☀️ books and reading – choose paper books or the Kindle Oasis ebook reader which emits a warm light.
☀️ voluntary work
☀️ puzzles or board games – I love all the classics: Cluedo, Monopoly, Pictionary.
☀️ outdoor activities – tennis, walks, football and many others
2. Implement strict but realistic screen rules at home
Going cold turkey may work with adults, but often with kids, it’s unrealistic (especially teenagers). So instead of expecting to create a zero-tolerance to screens, think about how you can create boundaries, for instance, no phones during dinner, or one hour of T.V. per day.
If you’re thinking about reducing screen time for your kids, you could make up a routine where they’re allowed to use their digital devices for an hour after they finish homework.
If they’re under six, you could limit their screen time to weekends and in small doses (20 minutes, for instance).
3. Redeem screen time to engage with good content
When you do use digital devices focus on connecting with friends and family who live far away and reading useful content.
For instance, use your device to do online devotionals, listen to great Christian podcasts, listen to audible books or get useful and/or inspirational content from websites and blogs (like this one!).
This will help you be more particular about content that won’t edify you, thus helping you reduce the amount of digital content you actually consume.
4. Reduce or eliminate addictive games and mindless scrolling
How to decrease screen time? Delete addictive games!
To control scrolling, set time limits for social media by putting your phone on focus mode which disables certain apps, and then going on a 5-minute break now and then.
5. Focus on real connection
Do you want to decrease screen time at home?
Make sure that you build a real connection with your children, by putting your phone away when you get home from work or when you pick them up from school.
This is something I’ve been doing for a while now, but I didn’t always do. What I noticed when I used to look at my phone right after getting my kids from school was that they clamoured for attention.
It’s no wonder! They’d been away from me the whole day, and instead of getting a nice catch-up time with mummy, they got grunts and distractions.
Deep down the reality was that my children were more important than what I was doing on my phone, but that reality did not translate into tangible action.
And so I changed my ways.
It’s important that we show our kids that we prioritize them over our Whatapp friends, the news, Instagram, football.
So my challenge to you is this: don’t be a slave to your device. Learn to focus on the people you are with there and then. Give them the biggest gift of all: your time and your attention. ❤️
6. Don’t use screens in your bedroom and right before sleep
Make this a household rule. Only use screens in common rooms at set times, and make it a family rule to never use devices on your own in your room (especially before bed).
This is both because of its negative effects on sleep, but also the pursuit of purity.
7. Fight FOMO (the fear of missing out)
You know that feeling of desiring to see what’s new, who’s sent you a message, who’s liked your Instagram post, what the latest basketball score is? It’s all habit!
Fifteen years ago we didn’t have access to information and communication at the touch of a button, and we got along just fine.
We weren’t constantly connected and we were better off (in my opinion, at least).
So instead of fearing what you’re missing, live in the moment. Enjoy today! Leave your phone behind when you go out with your family to dinner. The world won’t stop spinning if you go off the grid for a few hours.
8. Make your phone less appealing
What this means is that you remove your phone’s bright colours and its visual appeal by going on grayscale mode. Also remove any apps that will be a constant source of distaction.
9. Schedule face-to-face meet-ups
Whenever possible and safe to do so (I know covid sometimes gets in the way) schedule face-to-face meet-ups.
Engage with people in the real world. Forget your WhatsApp friends for a few hours, while you focus on the person before you.
10. Go cold turkey
For some people simply implementing limits does not work, because devices and constant information and connectivity are too appealing and addictive.
If that’s you, and you know deep down that your screen time is affecting your mental health, your relationship with your family members and friends, and even your relationship with God, buy a phone with no access to the internet.
Go back to the basics.
As Jesus said: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29)
With that said, I’ll sign off so that I can go and be in the real world, but I’d like to ask you to share this post if you found it useful. Or pin it to your Pinterest account (if Pinterest is not too addictive, that is!) 🙂